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Today my friend Stella Deleuze is dropping by the blog to talk about Beta Readers. This is a subject near and dear to my heart. I’ve been working as part of The Sanction Chronicles group as a beta reader. It’s pretty difficult to tell someone that what they wrote needs to change! It is, however, a really important job. Stella is a multi-published author. Drop by her blog and read about what she’s written and pick up one of her books!
Beta readers, a writer’s secret weapon
Authors want to be read, I think we can agree on that, but there are readers and there are readers. Sure, it’s good to have your Mum, your sister and your best friend reading your book, but do they tell you like it is? Most certainly not. They will praise your writing, even if they think it sucks.
The process between the first idea of a novel to the ready-to-be-published manuscript is a long and painstaking journey, along the way the book will be altered, revised, parts even rewritten and fine-tuned to perfection. Now, while some authors are more than capable of going through the whole process on their own, the majority rely on editors, especially if they are new to writing. The more advanced writer will send their first drafts to a few Beta readers, who will fearlessly comment on everything that strikes them. After that, it’s back to the drawing-board, there isn’t a novel that doesn’t need any more work after the first draft.
When the corrections and rewrites have taken place, it’s up for the next round – different – Beta readers. Why? Because the first person who has read the book will now be biased. If an author has a rather well, though-out and clean first draft, it may only take one round, if the draft is very rough, it might require a few more rounds and readers. I personally love working with them, as they usually are super happy to get a book for free, or often, and that is even more important: they really enjoy being a part of the early process.
One of them once said to me she now feels protective over my book because of the early involvement, which I found absolutely adorable. And she was a great help, too.
If you are interested in becoming a Beta reader but don’t know if you could do it, don’t be scared; you’re basically asked to give an opinion; you’ll have one anyway, so good or bad, the author will want to hear it.
Here are a few tips on what to look out for in an early draft:
- Are the characters likeable? If not, is that the intention of the author or does it need to be addressed? Give the author a reason why you don’t like the character.
- Does the character act like s/he is drawn? i.e. a girl is very shy and withdrawn, but appears at a party and starts to chat up guys (without any influence of drugs or alcohol.)
- Do the characters act logically? Do their actions correspond with the scenes? i.e. a fire in the house and the character just says.,”Oh, there’s a fire,” without any trace of panic or urgency.
- Is the plot conclusive? i.e. the boy goes to bed and switches the television off, two paragraphs later, he’s wide awake, watching telly.
- Is the pace correct? Are there scenes you find the book can easily do without? Let the author know and why.
- Is the suspense done well? Are you being kept on your toes? If not, tell the author where it lacked, or where s/he actually spoiled the suspense.
- Is the style consistent? Do you notice a change of vocabulary? Let the author know. Some authors have been writing on a book over a few years and their vocabulary might have changed, too.
- If you are good at grammar and spot a few repetitive errors, mark them and let the author know, in many cases he or she will be able to correct them throughout the manuscript.
You don’t necessarily need to watch out for all the things, every bit of feedback is welcome, in the end authors want their books to be enjoyed, what better way is there as working with readers directly?
If anyone is interested in the sequel to No Wings Attached, please get in touch, I’ll be ready with the first draft in about a month and would love to hear from you.
Stella Deleuze is a versatile writer. She has spent almost all her life in Germany, but now lives in beautiful London with her pet iguana Zorro. When she’s not busily typing away on my laptop, she edits other people’s work. For feedback, questions or suggestions she can be contacted at authorstelladeleuze(at)gmail(dot)com or at her blog, Stella Deleuze.
I’d like to thank Stella for dropping by and sharing her wisdom with us. Hopefully she visits again!